Karen Braden just got out of a mental hospital. Now, her father and sister, Isa, have taken her to a secret government facility in Idaho where they’re working on matter transference. However, they’ve learned how to travel through time instead, which has taught them a sad fact: an ecological event will soon wipe out civilization.
Only those twenty and younger can handle time travel, due to the damage it does to the kidneys. The scientists start sending teenagers fifty-six years ahead to rebuild the human race. It turns out that the project was secret and once discovered, the government turns off the machines, trapping everyone in the future, where they are killed when one of them, Leslie, goes nuts. Oh yeah — and everyone is now sterile, despite Karen’s assertions that she is pregnant.
No one even cares that they are about to die. One of the teens, Ronald says: “I don’t think you have to leave anything behind. Just have a beautiful time like all the other junk litter in the universe, then say goodbye. I don’t know what else to tell you. Perpetuation and all the crap that goes with it is a big hoax anyway.”
The last survivor, Karen, tries to change the settings on the machine and go back to prevent everything. But she screws up and goes too far forward. A futuristic car pulls up and a man takes her, placing her in the trunk to be used as fuel. A future girl asks her family what will happen when they run out of fuel and will they have to stop driving cars? The film ends with the words “Esto Perpetua,” meaning “It is forever.”
Other than Keith Carradine, the cast is filled with unknowns. Peter Fonda produced and directed it, but eventually, he let the film disappear into the public domain. I discovered it on a Mill Creek Entertainment 50 pack and it’s…weird.
It’s the only movie I’ve ever seen where an 8-track player is a time machine and you need to get into your underwear (or nude) and have someone sit behind you to activate it. That seems like some kind of weird pick-up trick, but somehow it works. Except the future is incredibly shitty and you’ll be turned to gasoline. So there’s that.
This seems like the coming down of 60’s hope, the understanding that the world would soon end. But then, the 80’s would arrive and everyone would start caring about only one thing: themselves. Perhaps the dead world of Idaho Transfer is preferable to selling out and becoming a lie.